Camille Garcia / Rivard Report
Friday afternoon’s sunny, cloudless sky was the perfect setting to showcase the new solar panels installed at Toyota Motor Manufacturing’s San Antonio campus.
Spanning across two acres of the automobile manufacturer’s Southside plant, the panels are expected to generate approximately 260 kilowatts of electricity and provide Toyota $15,000 in energy savings per year, officials said at a Friday ribbon-cutting ceremony at the campus. The solar panels will power the company’s Family Health and Visitors centers, and serve as an educational tool for the thousands of visitors who tour the facility each month.
The savings in money and energy, and the opportunity for education on green initiatives are what SolarHost SA, a program of PowerFin Partners, is all about, PowerFin President Tuan Pham said. Toyota is SolarHost SA’s first enterprise client to participate in the program, which – in partnership with CPS Energy – offers residents and companies solar panels and installation at no-cost.
“[The program] establishes a more inclusive and more accessible way for all members of the community – businesses, low-income home owners who don’t have the capital to own their own solar system – to realize not only the environmental benefits of solar but also the economic benefits,” Pham said.
About 250 residents and commercial entities in San Antonio have become “solar hosts” through the program since it started in 2016, according to Pham, and the San Antonio River Authority‘s wastewater treatment plant in Converse has a solar installation of the exact same size as Toyota’s.
The company is ramping up its commercial aspect of the program, while also expanding installations throughout the Southside. Most customer-owned solar installations are on the more affluent Northside of town, Pham said, which is why SolarHost has focused on installations further south.
“Socioeconomically, that helps to balance things out a little bit,” he said, and from an operating perspective, that model helps CPS Energy balance out its solar generation throughout the city.
Residents and commercial organizations can still apply to the SolarHost SA program. More information can be found at the program’s website here. Pham said he anticipates wrapping up the applications and installations later this year.
“[SolarHost SA] was really a way to bring solar to some folks who just weren’t going to be able to get it otherwise from our traditional solar programs,” said Todd Horsman, CPS Energy senior director of strategy & product development. “… We are committed to continue to innovate like this.”
Adding solar energy to Toyota’s campus is just another step in the company’s mission to minimize its environmental impact. The plant, which achieved a “zero landfill” goal in 2015, already utilizes water recycling systems and electricity as well as natural-gas saving technology, among other green mechanisms.
“[Participating in the SolarHost SA program] is the first step that we’ll take, maybe on a long walk for renewable energy here at this plant,” said Rob Franklin, Toyota Motors Manufacturing, Texas general manager and environmental director for the facility.
SolarHost SA is one of several clean energy initiatives in San Antonio and Texas that have contributed to San Antonio maintaining its status as No. 1 in the state and No. 8 in the country for solar energy production, according to an Environment Texas report released Tuesday.
“In San Antonio itself there’s a lot of excitement in the community. There’s been a significant amount of solar penetration and San Antonio itself is potentially just scratching the surface as far as the number of solar installations,” Pham said.
“…We certainly hope that this installation will serve as a model for novel and value driven work that SolarHost and CPS can do together.”